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UFC ON FOX 4 PREVIEW: Penick's breakdown and fight predictions for network TV event
Aug 4, 2012 - 2:45:25 PM
By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
The UFC's fourth event on Fox took on a decidedly different feel when Brian Stann suffered an injury, taking him out of a proposed bout with Hector Lombard for the main event. The UFC then shifted Mauricio "Shogun" Rua into that slot, with Brandon Vera becoming the beneficiary of an open main event slot. With that light heavyweight bout joining a big fight between Lyoto Machida and Ryan Bader, the event turned into an important one in the 205 lb. division, as a title shot will be granted to the best performance from those four. So let's take a look at what's coming on Saturday in the latest network television event:
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Brandon Vera (Light Heavyweight):
Brandon Vera is extremely fortunate to be in this spot. His sole win since 2009 came in his last bout against Eliot Marshall last October, and he nearly gave that fight away late. At one time he was a fast rising talent, threatening to compete at the top end of the sport for some time. However, that fast rise brought about a quick fall, and his inability to live up to those early expectations have haunted him mentally inside the cage.
That's not to say he has no chance against the former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. Shogun's been plagued by knee issues over the course of his career, and it's visibly affected his game very recently. He looked sluggish against Jon Jones - though part of that performance was brought about by a flying knee in the opening seconds - he was flat footed and fairly slow against Forrest Griffin before power took over, and it took a dramatic turnaround against a tired Dan Henderson in November to have any hope of a come back, as he started off slow again.
Vera's got to use his Muay Thai game to attack Rua's legs, to take that base out from him and not allow him to get going on offense himself. That's his key to success, because he can score points and have an advantage down the stretch if he can wear Rua out early.
It's not an easy task, and Rua will be out to attack him in a similar fashion. Shogun's got the superior power, but neither fighter has been particularly impressive or effective as of late. It's not a foregone conclusion that Rua runs away with this one, but if he's healthy and prepared, he's the better fighter.
PREDICTION: Rua via TKO in the second round
Lyoto Machida vs. Ryan Bader (Light Heavyweight):
Machida's two decisive career losses came against "Shogun," who knocked him out with a blitzing attack, and Jon Jones, who blasted him with a big combination before locking on a vicious choke only a fighter like Jones seems to pull off. A split decision loss to "Rampage" Jackson was a result of Machida failing to attack in the first two rounds, allowing Jackson to score with little action.
Bader's not necessarily the type of fighter who can repeat these performances. He's got heavy hands, sure, and if he connects he could end Machida's night early. But he's not on the same level as the other three names when it comes to the striking game.
He's arguably one of the best wrestlers Machida has faced, but the wrestling game hasn't really been a major issue for Machida throughout his career. Indeed, he's had some very good performances against wrestlers in the past. The key to this fight is Machida's counter-striking. Bader's going to look for the power punch, a style which Machida is typically able to avoid.
Bader may try to close the distance, take Machida down, and work his top game; however, getting Machida down and keeping him there are two different things entirely. This fight comes down to Machida being the superior striker, and having a better chance at keeping the fight where he's most comfortable. I'd expect that leads to a big finish and Machida making his case for a quick return to a title fight.
PREDICTION: Machida via TKO in the second round
Joe Lauzon vs. Jamie Varner (Lightweight):
This is an interesting lightweight matchup. As Champion in the WEC, Varner showcased a fairly well-rounded skillset, with solid wrestling and decent striking putting him on par with most in the division. He went through a rough stretch to end his run in that organization, but in his UFC return earlier this year he showed just why he's still a dangerous fighter.
Lauzon knows what it feels like to be on the wrong end of a hard-hitting opponent, as well. The submission specialist has had an issue with his performances against higher-end competition, but he's been great at defeating fighters he should be beating.
What makes this fight so intriguing is we'll find out just where both fighters stand in the division. After his knockout loss to Anthony Pettis, Lauzon needs a big turnaround. If Varner isn't ready to make a top end return, he'll get submitted with quickness in this fight. If he's the Varner that showed up against Edson Barboza, this could be his fight to lose.
If this fight leaves the first round, Varner should become a prohibitive favorite. Lauzon's simply never shown an ability to keep pace out of the first round. That will become a problem for him as the fight wears on. I'll bank on Varner surviving Lauzon's attempts in the opening frame, then turning things around before taking over completely late in the fight.
PREDICTION: Varner via TKO in the third round
Mike Swick vs. DaMarques Johnson (Welterweight):
Swick hasn't fought since February of 2010. That's a severe layoff, and one that's been plagued by illness and injury. The sheer reality of this fight is that he's going to be facing significant ring rust, and no matter how well he's trained in the last several months, that's going to be a very real factor in the fight.
Johnson has been a very erratic performer in the UFC since making his debut through the ninth season of The Ultimate Fighter. He's got a lot of skill both on the ground and in his striking game, but seemingly not enough to pull it all together from fight to fight. Because of that, we're just as likely to see the Johnson who stopped Edgar Garcia, Brad Blackburn, Mike Guymon, and Clay Harvison in impressive fashion as we are to see the Johnson who got stopped by Matt Riddle, submitted to strikes against Amir Sadollah, and fell victim to an armbar against John Maguire.
There's not really a lot of rhyme or reason to what we've seen from him. We know he can knock opponents out with his striking game, we know his ground game is solid, it just hasn't all come together.
Swick's keys are to blitz his opponents with striking combinations. Before the two fight losing skid that came about during his battles with illness, he was looking good at 170 lbs., and his power is a very real threat. It just depends on who can implement their game in this fight.
If Johnson can avoid the initial flurries from Swick, keep his cool, and attack on his own, he may wind up with the advantage. It's a tough fight to call, with a lot of hard to know variables coming into play. Ultimately, the ring rust issue is very significant, and if Johnson shows up, he just may catch Swick off guard.
PREDICTION: Johnson via submission in the third round
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